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Critically evaluate research into eating disorders - Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa.

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Jack Waters Critically evaluate research into eating disorders Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are the two main types of eating disorders that have been found, mainly in the western world. The term Anorexia Nervosa means Loss of appetite, but sufferers of Anorexia Nervosa do not actually have a loss of appetite, in fact most of the people with Anorexia have normal appetites and will most likely be very hungry, but they will still behave as if they have lost their appetite. The A.P.A (American Psychiatric Association) (1994) states that Anorexia occurs in 0.5-1.0 % of females in late adolescence or early adulthood. The main characteristic of Anorexia Nervosa is the constant obsession of bodyweight and sufferers will usually be under the minimum expected bodyweight but will still be afraid of putting on weight or gaining body fat. Their food intake is usually restricted to 600-700 calories per day. Bulimia Nervosa sufferers are very different they tend to induce themselves in secret binge eating, but then rid their bodies of the food usually by self induced vomiting, the over use of laxatives or sometimes by excessive exercising. Unlike Anorexics, Bulimics are usually within the expected bodyweight, but like Anorexia, the sufferers have a distorted body image of themselves and those of people they model themselves upon (supermodels, pop singers, etc). The Biological model tends to treat abnormality's, such as eating disorders, as physical illness's and it is believed that treatment of these disorders should be dealt with in a physical way, such as drug treatment (chemotherapy).


The fact that eating disorders are mainly located in young girls (about to approach adolescence) has caused many Psychological theorists to believe that Anorexia is related to the fact that these young girls are sexually developing and brings on sexual fears such as becoming pregnant or even being "orally impregnated" (becoming pregnant orally). It is believed that is pregnancy is related to eating then semi-starvation should prevent becoming pregnant, also not eating results in amenorrhoea which will prevent pregnancy because it causes ovulation to stop taking place. Another psychodynamic account that still focused on sexual development is based on the assumption that Anorexia Nervosa takes place in females who have an unconscious desire to remain pre-pubescent. The fact they are not eating properly will stop them from developing the body shape associated with adult females and this will allow them to maintain the illusion that they are still children. There is some evidence that eating disorders occur in females that have been sexually abused at some point in their early childhood lives and that they think that if they destroy their bodies by not eating then they will not be seen as sexually attractive and the earlier incidents will not be repeated. McLelland et al (1991) did a study in an eating disorder clinic based on the explanation that eating disorders are caused by people being sexually abused at a young age. He found that 30% of the patients surveyed had suffered sexual abuse at a young age.


The cognitive approach has been questioned as to whether these cognitive bias's exist before the onset of eating disorders and play a part in their development or if the cognitive biases will appear after the onset of the eating disorders, in which case they cannot be a casual factor. Eating disorders have been around for along time and are a very serious problem in our society, they tend to affect young girls approaching or in the early stages of adolescence. There is not enough evidence to show that eating disorders come from any one disease or if they are genetically inherited (like the twins study suggests). The amount of people suffering from these eating disorders has increased dramatically in the past 30 years and it is becoming ever more apparent that society and the media is playing a big part in the development of these disorders. The study of Egyptian women in Egypt and in London has (done by Naseer) shown that in Egypt, where there is no media representation that "thin is beautiful", eating disorders are very rare, whereas in London where we are ruled by this ideal, eating disorders arte very common. But currently the dominant idea of how eating disorders are formed is the psychodynamic approach that states that these disorders are being developed because of sexual abuse in the early childhood of women and the fact that individuality is frowned upon in families and eating disorders are occurring as an easy form of rebellion by saying "you can't make me eat, I control what I eat and what I don't eat". Jack Waters 12RTC

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